Science, Medical Research & Experimentation, & Litigation

The following chapters focuses heavily on these themes: part I (chs.1, 3,4, 6, 7, 8); part II (chs.13, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22); part III (chs.23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, & 34) and afterword.

Part I: Life

Chapter 1: The Exam…1951 (looks at Jim Crow Baltimore and segregated hospital of Johns Hopkins), pp.13-17.

Chapter 3: Diagnosis and Treatment 1951(discusses Johns Hopkins as a segregated hospital and use of radium), pp.27-33.

Chapter 4: The Birth of HeLa…1951 (   ), pp.34-41.

Chapter 6: “Lady’s on the Phone”…1999 (   ), pp.49-55.

Chapter 7: The Death and Life of Cell Culture…1951 (   ), pp.56-62.

Chapter 8: “A Miserable Specimen”…1951 (  ), pp.63-76.


Part II: Death

Chapter 13: The HeLa Factory…1951-1953 (set up as a massive operation to help stop polio; it would grow to produce trillions of HeLa cells each week; and it looks at the role and responsibility of African American workers at Tuskegee Institute for growing and distributing HeLa cells to fight polio), pp. 93-104.

Chapter 14: Helen Lane 1953-1954 (explores why the false identity of Helen Lane was accepted as the source of HeLa, not Henrietta Lacks, and how that misinformation was dissimenated to the wider public, and the ethical issues and implications that would produce), pp.105-109.

Chapter 17: Illegal, Immortal, and Deplorable…1954-1966 (excellent discussion on ethics in scientific experimentation as well as the issue of consent; also deals with the phobias of genetic engineering and other scientific disasters and provides comparative examples of unethical scientific behavior such as the experimentation Nazi’s conducted during World War II uncovered at the Nuremberg Trials and Chester Southam injection of cancer cells on inmates of Ohio’s prisons in the 1950s), pp.127-136.

Chapter 18: “Strangest Hybrid”…1960-1966 (deals with HeLa cells in space and the Cold War, the breeding of man-animal cells, portrayals of mad scientists, fears of Frankensteinien monsters, images of half-human, half-mouse creatures, and the accusation that HeLa hybrids represent an“assault on life” itself), pp.137-143.

Chapter 20: The HeLa Bomb…1966 (discusses how and why geneticist Stanley Gartler exposed the fallacies of curing cancer, thereby undermining and implicating the whole earlier research on cancer cells by scientists like George Gey. Gartler called the HeLa cells “contaminants” that were ruining experiments in cell culture, including cloning, hybrids, mapping human genes, and using cultures to cure cancer. If all the cells that had been employed for various kinds of scientific research and experimentation were in fact HeLa, as Gartler argued, then millions of dollars had been wasted. As Robert Stevenson, later president of the American Type Culture Collection, noted of Gartler’s talk, it was like dropping “a turd in the punch bowl” (p.154), pp.152-157. 

Chapter 22: “The Fame She So Richly Deserves”…1970-1973 (looks at the misdiagnosis of Henrietta’s cancer and whether that affected her treatment; HeLa cells, president Nixon and the War on Cancer, HeLa cells and Russian science, the Cold War, the role of the National Cancer Institute, and also explanations for why article after article over the decades kept calling the mysterious woman who produced the HeLa cells, Helga Larsen, Helen Larsen, Helen Lane, Helen L, Heather Langtree, and even the actress Hedy Lamarr, until finally in the early 1970s, Howard W. Jones categorically stated that he had “no doubt that HeLa cells were named after Henrietta Lacks” (p.176), pp.170-176. For information on this matter, see Howard W. Jones, Roland Pattillo, Robert Kurman, David Fishman, Carmel Cohen, and others. Also check S. B. Gusberg and J. A. Corscaden, “The Pathology and Treatment of Adenocarcinoma of the Cervix,” Cancer 4, no.5 (September 1951).

The text of the 1971 National Cancer Act can be found at

The following sources deal with the ongoing controversy surrounding the HeLa contamination crisis: L. Coriell, “Cell Repository,” Science 180, no.4084 (April 27, 1973); W. A. Nelson-Rees et al., “Banded Marker Chromosomes as Indicators of Intraspecies Cellular Contamination,” Science 184, no.4141 (June 7, 1974); K. S. Lavappa et al., “Examination of ATCC Stocks for HeLa Marker Chromosomes in Human Cell Lines,” Nature 259 (January 22, 1976); W. K. Henseen, “HeLa Cells and Their Possible Contamination of Other Cell Lines: Karyotype Studies,” Hereditas 82 (1976); W. A. Nelson-Rees and R. R. Flandermeyer, “HeLa Cultures Defined,” Science 191, no.4222 (January 9, 1976); M. M. Webber, “Present Status of MA-160 Cell Line: Prostatic Epithelium or HeLa Cells?” Investigative Urology 14, no.5 (March 1977); and W. A. Nelson-Rees, “The Identification and Monitoring of Cell Line Specificity,” in Origin and Natural History of Cell Lines (Alan R. Liss, Inc., 1978). Also see the following published articles on the controversy: W. A. Nelson-Rees,” Responsibility for Truth in Research,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 356, no.1410 (June 29, 2001); S. J. O’Brien, “Cell Culture Forensics,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98, no.14 (July 3, 2001); and R. Chatterjee, “Cell Biology: A Lonely Crusade,” Science 16, no.315 (February 16, 2007).

Chapter 23: ‘”It’s Alive”…1973-1974 (focuses on pseudo science and bad hospital treatment of black patients in Baltimore County, human gene mapping, how to confront and stop the HeLa contamination problem, DNA research and technology, medical genetics, Johns Hopkins geneticist Dr.Victor McKusick’s testings for several kinds of genetic markers, including specific proteins called HLA markers, on the Lackses without their understanding or consent, the National Institute of Health [NIH] guidelines for all human subject research funded by it; informed consent, scientific lies and deception, Deborah Lacks and her paranoia, as well as compensation for the members of the Lacks family), pp.179-190.

On Victor McKusick’s career, see the National Library of Medicine at For his genetic database, now referred to OMIM, can be found at

On the relevant regulations protecting human subjects in research, see “The Institutional Guide to DHEW Policy on Protection of Human Subjects,” DHEW Publication No. (NIH) 72-102 (December 1, 1971); NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts,” U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, no.18 (April 14, 1972); and “Policies for Protecting All Human Subjects in Research Announced,” NIH Record (October 9, 1973); and “Protection of Human Subjects,” Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Federal Register 39, no.105, part 2 (May 30, 1974).

Information on the history of oversight of research on human subjects can be found at The Human Radiation Experiments: Final Report of the President’s Advisory Committee (Oxford University Press), also available at

Various companies for profit have formed over the years. For the profiles of many of those companies—Microbiological Associates, Whittaker Corp, Bio Whittaker, Invitrogen, Cambrex, BioReliance, and Avista Capital Partners—and others that sell HeLa, see One Source Corp Tech Company Profiles or

A good source to consult for HeLa pricing information is as follows:

Patent information on HeLa, see the following:

Information such as financial statements on ATCC as a nonprofit, see the American Type Culture Collection on; for its HeLa catalog entry, go to and search for HeLa.

On HeLa-plant hybrids, see “People-Plants,” Newsweek, August 16, 1976; C. W. Jones, I. A. Mastrangelo, H. H. Smith, H. Z. Liu, and R. A. Meck, “Interkingdom Fusion Between Human (HeLa) Cells and Tobacco Hybrid (GGLL) Protoplasts, Science, July 30, 1976.

For this chapter Rebecca Skloot relied on the following: letters at the AMCMA; for studies on Deborah Lacks, see her medical records, and “Proceedings for the New Haven Conference (1973): First International Workshop on Human Gene Mapping,” Cytogenetics and  Cell Genetics 13 (1974): 1-216.


Chapter 24: “Least They Can Do”…1975 (focuses on the HeLa contamination problem, investigative journalism, articles on the HeLa story by reporter Michael Rogers of Rolling Stone—the perfect mix of science and human interest—interviews with the Lackses, profits gained from using and buying HeLa cells for research of all kinds, George Gey’s work and research at Johns Hopkins, patents, regulations, Deborah’s nighmares and strange dreams of “People-Plants,” science fiction, the case of John Moore, and new regulatory acts such as the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, established to protect people from losing their health insurance or employment due to genetic discrimination. However, at that time, there was no federal oversight), pp.191-198.    

Deborah Lacks diary entries (quote, p.195):

          going on with pain

          …we should know what’s going on with her cells from

          all of them that have her cells. You might want to ask

          why so long with this news, well its been out for years

          in and out of video’s papers, books, magazines, radio, tv,

          all over the world….I was in shock. Ask, and no one

          answers me. I was brought up to be quiet, no talking, just

          listen….I have something to talk about now, Henrietta

          Lacks what went out of control, how my mother went

          through all that pain all by her self with those cold

          hearted doctor. Oh, how my father, said how they cooked

          her alive with radiation treatments. What went on in

          her mind in those short months. Not getting better and

          slipping away from her family. You see I am trying to

          relive that day in my mind. Youngest baby in the hospital

          with TB oldest daughter in another hospital, and three

          others at home, and husband got to, you hear me, got to

          work through it all to make sure he can feed his babies.

          And wife dying…Her in that cold looking ward at

          John Hopkin Hospital, the side for Black’s only, oh yes,

          I know. When that day came, and my mother died, she

          was Robbed of her cells and John Hopkins Hospital

          learned of those cells and kept it to themselves, and gave

          them to who they wanted and even changed the name to

          HeLa cell and kept it from us for 20+ years. They say

          Donated. No No No Robbed Self.

          My father have not signed any paper….I want them to

          Show me proof. Where are they. (pp.195-196)

Chapter 25: “Who Told You You Could Sell My Spleen?”…1976-1988 (deals with white pursuit of information and cases of litigation based on the lack of informed consent, such as the John Moore suit; also looks at lack of biological patents before the 1980s, the legal problems of AIDS and HIV viruses, vaccines for hepatitis B, genes and property rights, sharing of tissue cells for research purposes and ownership of cell lines, litigation suits against big businesses, questions about who should have rights to a patient’s cells, the California Protection of Human Subjects in Medical Experimentation Act of 1978, the right of doctors to use patient tissues, the “right of individuals to determine what is done to their own bodies” and a patient’s “ultimate power to control what becomes of his or her tissues” which deals with “a massive invasion of human privacy and dignity in the name of medical progress.” (p.205), and the debate over the ownership of human tissues (see quote by Deborah about this matter, p.206), pp.199-206.

Chapter 26: Breach of Privacy…1980-1985 (looks at some basic ethical issues in the early 1980s, including Walter Nelson-Rees’s campaign to stop HeLa contamination, Henrietta Lacks’s medical records, clinical observations of her autopsy, the ethical issue of publishing medical records without the patient’s permission, patient confidentiality, Maryland laws, and new federal laws passed since the mid 1980s that deal with privacy violations for the living and the dead. Skloot also discusses life in prison for some family members of the Lackses), pp.207-211.


See Deborah quote on autopsy observation (p.210)

Dead and privacy

Other cases

Chapter 27: The Secret of Immortality…1984-1995 (looks at scientific research on cervical cancer, the origins of cancer, debates over the use of DNA, a new strain of a sexually transmitted virus called Human Papilloma Virus 18 [HPV-18], Henrietta’s original biopsy from Hopkins, HPV vaccine, landmark moments in HeLa research, manipulation of DNA for the purpose of producing “designer babies”, genetic engineering, the 1975 National Environmental Policy Act dealing with environmental safety, use of HeLa cells for HIV research purposes, Carrel’s chicken-heart cells and notion of immortality, and lawsuits against HeLa-connected genetic experimentation), pp.212-217.


HeLa species debate

Cell immortality

HeLa cells and DNA

Chapter 28: After London …1996-1999 ( discusses the BBC’s early documentary on Henrietta Lacks, HeLa cells, interviews with Deborah and other Lacks members in front of the home-house in Clover, and moving to Turner Station in Baltimore in the 1940s and the con artist, Sir Lord Keenan Kester Cofield), pp.218-231. Also about paying tribute to this “unsung local heroine”(p.224) Henrietta Lacks and promoting Henrietta’s contributions to science, family suffering, family lawyer Cofield and his numerous lawsuits against everyone and every institution, the BBC documentary, Deborah’s nervous breakdown, caused in part by learning about the existence and death of Elsie, her younger sister, who spent most of her short-lived life in the mental institution of Crownsville in Baltimore County, Maryland), pp.218-231.

Quote of Deborah’s where she seems to be talking directly to her mother (p.221)

We miss you, Mama….I think of you all the time and wish I could see and hold you in my arms, like I know you held me. My father said that you told him on your dying bed to take care of Deborah. Thank you, Ma, we will see you again someday. We read what we can and try to understand. My mind often wonder how things might would be if God had you stay here with me….I keep with me all I know about you deep in my soul, because I am part of you, and you are me. We love you, Mama.

Chapter 29: A Village of Henriettas…2000 (deals with Deborah, Henrietta’s eldest daughter; it also focuses on science/cloning/medical genetics/bad science, and deteriorating relations between Deborah and Rebecca Skloot), pp.232-240.

Chapter 31: Hela, Goddess of Death…2000-2001 (comics) Society (see chs.33, 36), Deborah becomes a researcher and historian and investigator), pp.250-258.

Chapter 32: “All That’s My Mother”…2001 (looks at Deborah and her siblings, HeLa cells contamination, DNA and HeLa cells,see p.264 for statement about DNA, race and DNA, quote about history and HeLa, “That’s important history” p.266, compensation for family,quote by Christoph, on cells and Henrietta, p.267 “Her cells are how it all started. Once there is a cure for cancer, it’s definitely largely because of your mother’s cells.”), pp.259-267.

Quote of Deborah to Christoph Lengauer (p.264): “Everybody always talking about cells and DNA…but I don’t understand what’s DNA and what’s her cells.” Followed by Lengauer saying, “Ah!” “DNA is what’s inside the cell! Inside each nucleus, if we could zoom in closer, you’d see a piece of DNA that looked like this.” “There’s forty-six of those pieces of DNA in every human nucleus. We call those chromosomes—those are the things that were colored bright in that big picture I gave you.” “Within the DNA in that picture is all the genetic information that made Henrietta Henrietta…” p.264 “So did her cancer—it came from a DNA mistake.” your mother’s case, the mistake was caused by HPV, the genital warts virus. The good news for you is that children don’t inherit those kinds of changes in DNA from their parents—they just come from being exposed to the virus.” And “Actually, HeLa is all just cancer.” P.265

Deborah to Christoph: “John Hopkin is a school for learning, and that’s important. But this is my mother. Nobody seem to get that.” Christoph remarks: “It’s true.” “Whenever we read books about science, it’s always HeLa this and HeLa that. Some people know those are the initials of a person, but they don’t know who that person is. That’s important history.” P.266


Chapter 34: The Medical Records…2001 (deals with science and research,great quote of Deborah’s on cancer and poverty (p.280), her mother’s biopsy, worsening relations and distrust between Deborah and Rebecca, including fighting, breaking out in hives, Elsie’s diagnosis), pp.279-285.


Deborah’s poem (p.280):


          check up

          can’t afford

          white and rich get it

          my mother was black

          black poor people don’t have the money to

                   pay for it

          mad yes I am mad

          we were used by taking our blood and lied to

          We had to pay for our own medical, can you

                   Relieve that.

          John Hopkin Hospital and all other places,

                   That has my mother cells, don’t give her




Chapter 33: The Hospital for the Negro Insane

On Crownsville’s history, p.365

Closing of this center

See Robert Redding Jr., “Historic Mental Hospital Closes,” Washington Times (June 28, 2004), available at

Chapter 36: Heavenly Bodies/deals with preacher Gary Lacks

Sir Lord Keenan Kester Cofield—attempted to sue John Hopkins and the Lacks family.

Chapter 37: “Nothing to Be Sacred About”…2001 (focuses mainly on stressful relations between Rebecca and Deborah, along with Deborah’s multiple health problems, including possible strokes, coping with disasters like 9/11 and coming to terms with mother’s and sister’s deaths), pp.297-304. Quote (Deborah to Rebecca): “It’s too late for Henrietta’s children…This story ain’t about us anymore. It’s about the new Lacks children” (p.302). Gary Pullman quote: “This child will someday know that her great-grandmother Henrietta helped the world! Pullman yelled and then pointed at grandchildren Davon and JaBrea’s other cousins, saying “So will that child…and that child…and that child. This is their story now. They need to take hold of it and let it teach them they can change the world too” (p.304).

Chapter 38: The Long Road to Clover…2009 (“Clover was gone.” Rebecca reminisces about the disappearance of Clover as a place and a memory of the past, of what remains of the town of Henrietta’s youth), pp.305-310.  This Chapter also deals with a dying town (Clover was gone when Rebecca Skloot went there with Deborah, p.305; talks about where Henrietta grew up/very key chapter on family and community)

On cell research and experimentation, see Leonard Hayflick and Moorehead, “The Serial Cultivation of Human Diploid Cell Strains,” Experimental Cell Research 25 (1961).




Notes on Science and Research (Theme II):

On the history of Johns Hopkins, see the AMCMA, as well as Alan Mason Chesney, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: A Chronicle; Timothy R. B. Johnson, John A. Rock, and J. Donald Woodruff, eds., The First 100 Years: Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

On the story of Alexis Carrel and his chicken heart research, see A. Carrel and M. T. Burrows, “Cultivation of Tissues in Vitro and Its Techniques,” Journal of Experimental Medicine (January 15, 1911); A. Carrel and M. T. Burrows, “On the Permanent Life of Tissues Outside of the Organism,” Journal of Experimental Medicine (March 15, 1912; Albert H. Ebeling, “ A Ten Year Old Strain of Fibroblasts,” Journal of Experimental Medicine (May 30, 1922), and Albert H. Ebeling, “Dr. Carrel’s Immortal Chicken Heart,” Scientific American (January 1942); other citations are as follows: “The ‘Immortality’ of Tissues,” Scientific American (October 26, 1912; “On the Trail of Immortality,” McClure’s (January 1913); “Herald of Immortality Foresees Suspended Animation,” Newsweek (December 21, 1935; “Flesh That Is Immortal,” World’s Work 28 (October 1914); “Carrel’s New Miracle Points Way to Avert Old Age!” New York Times Magazine (September 14, 1913); Alexis Carrel, “The Immortality of Animal Tissue, and Its Significance,” The Golden Book Magazine 7 (June 1928); and “Men in Black,” Time 31, number 24 (June 13, 1938).  The fact that Carrel’s chicken heart cells were not actually immortal can be found in J. Witkowski, “The Myth of Cell Immortality,” Trends in Biochemical Sciences (July 1985) and J. Witkowski, letter to the editor, Science 247 (March 23, 1990).

For a history of cell culture in Europe, see W. Duncan, “The Early History of Tissue Culture in Britain: The Interwar Years,” Social History of Medicine 18, no.2 (2005); Duncan Wilson, “ ‘Make Dry Bones Live’: Scientists’ Responses to Changing Cultural Representation of Tissue Culture in Britain, 1918-2004,” dissertation, University of Manchester (2005).

For the history of the HeLa mass production facilities at Tuskegee, see letters, expense reports, and other documents at the March of Dimes Archives. A comprehensive overview is Russell W. Brown and James H. M. Henderson, “The Mass Production and Distribution of HeLa Cells at the Tuskegee Institute, 1953-55,” Journal of the History of Medicine 38 (1983).

For instructions for growing HeLa at home, see C. L. Strong, “The Amateur Scientist: How to Perform Experiments with Animal Cells Living in Tissue Culture,” Scientific American, April 1966.

On the history of cell culture research in space, see Allan A. Katzberg, “The Effects of Space Flights on Living Human Cells,” Lectures in Aerospace Medicine, School of Aerospace Medicine (1960); K. Dickson, “Summary of Biological Spaceflight Experiments with Cells, ASGSB Bulletin 4, no.2 (July 1991).

For the cover-up of HeLa cells in space for a reconnaissance project that involved photographing the Soviet Union from space, and as part of the historical context of the Cold War, and on the use of “biological payloads” as cover for spy missions, see Dwayne A. Day, et al., ed., Eye in the Sky: The Story of the Corona Spy Satellites.

For early suggestions that there was a possibility of HeLa contaminating other cells, see L. Coriell et al., “Common Antigens in Tissue Culture Cell Lines,” Science, July 25, 1958. Other early concerns over culture contamination can be found in the following works: L.B. Robinson et al., “Contamination of Human Cell Cultures by Pleuropneumonialike Organisms,” Science 124, no.3232 (December 7, 1956); R. R., Gurner, R. A. Coombs, and R. Stevenson, “Results of Tests for the Species of Origins of Cell Lines by Means of the Mixed Aglutination Reaction, “ Experimental Cell Research 28 (September 1962); R. Dulbecco, “Transformation of Cells in Vitro by Viruses,” Science 142 (November 15, 1963); R. Stevenson, “Cell Culture Collection Committee in the United States,” in H. Katsuta, ed., Cancer Cells in Culture (1968). For the history of the ATCC, see R. Stevenson, “Collection, Preservation, Characterization and Distribution of Cell Cultures,” Proceedings, Symposium on the Characterization and Uses of Human Diploid Cell Strains: Opatija (1963); and W. Clark and D. Geary, “The Story of the American Type Culture Collection: Its History and Development (1889-1973),” Advances in Applied Microbiology 17 (1974). 

For studies on early cell hybrid research, see Barski, Sorieul, and Cornefert, “Production of Cells of a ‘Hybrid’ Nature in Cultures in Vitro of 2 Cellular Strains in Combination,” Comptes REndus Hebdomadaires des Seances de l’ Academie des Sciences 215 (October 24, 1960); H. Harris and J. F. Watkins, “Hybrid Cells Derived from Mouse and Man: Artificial Heterokaryons of Mammalian Cells from Different Species,” Nature 205 (February 13, 1965); M. Weiss and H. Green, “Human-Mouse Hybrid Cell Lines Containing Partial Complements of Human Chromosomes and Functioning Human Genes,” Proceedings of he National Academy of Sciences 58, no.3 (September 15, 1967); and B. Dphrussi and C. Weiss, “Hybrid Somatic Cells,” Scientific American 20, no.4 (April 1969). For particular sources on H. Harris’s hybrid research, see H. Harris, “The Formation and Characteristics of Hybrid Cells,” in H. Harris, Cell Fusion: The Dunham Lectures (1970); H. Haris, The Cells of the Body: A History of Somatic Cell Genetics; H. Harris, “Behaviour of Differentiated Nuclei in Heterokaryons of Animal Cells from Different Species,” Nature 206 (1965); H. Harris, “The Reactivation of the Red Cell Nucleus, “ Journal of Cell Science 2 (1967); and H. Harris and P. R. Harris, “Synthesis of an Enzyme Determined by an Erythrocyte Nucleus in a Hybrid Cell, Journal of Cell Science 5 (1966). 

Extensive media coverage of the hybrid phenomenon can be seen in “Man-Animal Cells Are Bred in Lab, The [London] Sunday Times (February 14, 1965); and “Of Mice and Men,” Washington Post (March 1, 1965).

On the debate about releasing Henrietta Lacks name to the public, see letters located in the AMCA. For the article that identified “Henrietta Lakes” as the source of the HeLa cell line, see “U Polio-detection Method to Aid in Prevention Plans,” Minneapolis Star, November 2, 1953. The first article to identify “Helen L.” as the source of the HeLa cell line was Bill Davidson, “Probing the Secret of Life,” Collier’s, May 14, 1954. 

For scientific advances that followed the growth of HeLa, see letters and other papers in the AMCA and TCAA. Hannah Landecker’s book, Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies, is the best comprehensive overview. But see H. Eagle, “Nutrition Needs of Mammalian Cells in Tissue Culture,” Science 122 (1955): 501-4; T. T. Puck and P. I. Marcus, “A Rapid Method for Viable Cell Titration and Clone Production with HeLa Cells in Tissue Culture: The Use of X-irradiated Cells to Study Conditioning Factors,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 41 (1955); J. H. Tijo and A. Levan, “The Chromosome Number of Man,” Cytogenetics 42 (January 26, 1956).  For more information on this subject, also see, M. J. Kottler, “From 48 to 46: Cytological Technique, Preconception, and the Counting of Human Chromosomes, “ Bulletin of the History of Medicine 48, no.4 (1974); H. E. Swim, “Microbiological Aspects of Tissue Culture,” Annual Review of Microbiology 13 (1959); J. Craigie, “Survival and Preservation of Tumors in the Frozen State,” Advanced Cancer Research 2 (1954); W. Scherer and A. Hoogasian, “Preservation at Subzero Temperatures of Mouse Fibroblasts (Strain L.) and Human Epithlial Cells (Strain HeLa),” Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 87, no.2 (1954); T. C. Hsu, “Mammalian Chromosomes in Vitro: The Karyotype of Man,” Journal of Heredity 43 (1952); and D. Pearlman, “Value of Mammalian Cell Culture as Biochemical Tool, “ Science 160 (April 1969); and N. P. Salzman, “Animal Cell Cultures, “ Science 133, no.3464 (May 1961). Besides these sources, see T. C. Hsu, Human and Mammalian Cytogenetics: An Historical Perspective; C. Moberg, “Keith Porter and the Founding of the Tissue Culture Association: A Fiftieth Anniversary Tribute, 1946-1996,” In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology—Animal (November 1996). See as well Robert Pollack, ed., Readings in Mammalian Cell Culture.

For information on Southam’s cancer cell injections, see the following sources: Chester Southam, “Neoplastic Changes Developing in Epithelial Cell Lines Derived from Normal Persons,” Science 124, no.3212 (July 20, 1956); Chester Southam, “Transplantation of Human Tumors,” letter, Science 124, no.125, no.3239 (January 25, 1957); Chester Southam, “Homotransplantation of Human Cell Lines,” Science 125, no.3239 (January 25, 1957); Chester Southam, “Applications of Immunology  to Clinical Cancer Past Attempts and Future Possibilities,” Cancer Research 21 (October 1961): 1302-16; and Chester Southam, “History and Prospects of Immunotherapy of Cancer,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 277, no.1 (1976).

Media coverage of Chester Southam’s prison studies can be found at the following citations: “Convicts to Get Cancer Injection,” New York Times, May 23, 1956; “Cancer by the Needle,” Newsweek, June 4, 1956; “14 Convicts Injected with Live Cancer Cells,” New York Times, June 15, 1956; “Cancer Volunteers,” Time, February 25, 1957; “Cancer Defenses Found to Differ,” New York Times, April 15, 1957; “Cancer Injections Cause ‘Reaction,’” New York Times, July 18, 1956; “Convicts Sought for Cancer Test,” New York Times, August 1, 1957.

More news coverage of the ethical debate dealing with the Chester Southam controversy can be found in the following sources: “Scientific Experts Condemn Ethics of Cancer Injection,” New York Times, January 26, 1964; Earl Ubell, “Why the Big Fuss,” Chronicle-Telegram, January 25, 1961; Elinor Langer, “Human Experimentation: Cancer Studies at Sloan-Kettering Stir Public Debate on Medical Ethics,” Science 143 (February 7, 1964); and Elinor Langer, “Human Experimentation: New York Verdict Affirms Patient Rights,” Science (February 11, 1966).

For a comprehensive coverage of Chester Southam’s cancer cell injections and the hearings that resulted from such practices, see Jay Katz, Experimentation with Human Beings. Katz collected extensive original correspondence, court documents, and other pertinent materials that might have been lost since they weren’t retained by the Board of Regents. For a more extensive examination of this topic, see Jay Katz, “Experimentation on Human Beings,” Stanford Law Review 20 (November 1967). On other lawsuits, including William A. Hyman’s lawsuits, see William A. Hyman v. Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital (42 Misc. 2nd 427; 248 N. Y. S. 2nd 245; 1964 and 15 N.Y 2nd 317; 206 N.E. 2nd 338; 258 N.Y. S. 2nd 397; 1965). Patent lawsuits are also informative, see Alvin Zeleznik v. Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital (47 A.D. 2nd 199; 336 N.Y.S. 2nd 163; 1975). Also useful on this matter is H. Beecher, “Ethics and Clinical Research,” New England Journal of Medicine 274, no.24 (June 16, 1966).

On the history of court decisions and rights regarding autopsies, see Susan Lederer, Subjected to Science: Human Experimentation in America Before the Second World War. This is a must-read on the ethics and history of research on human subjects, as is the pioneering study on Nazi experimentations during World War II. See on that period, George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin, The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation.  For the history of experimentation on prisoners, see Allen Hornblum, Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmsburg Prison. He interviewed Chester Southam before he died.

More coverage of the history of bioethics, including the changes that followed the Southam controversy can be gleaned from the following sources: Albert R. Johnson, The Birth of Bioethics; David J. Rothman, Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making; George J. Annas, Informed Consent to Human Experimentation: The Subject’s Dilemma; M. S. Frankel, “The Development of Policy Guidelines Governing Human Experimentation in the United States: A Case Study of Public Policy-making for Science and Technology,” Ethics in Science and Medicine 2, no.48 (1975); and R.B. Livingston, “Progress Report on Survey of Moral and Ethical Aspects of Clinical Investigation: Memorandum to Director, NIH” (November 4, 1964).

On the history of informed consent, see Ruth Faden and Tom Beauchamp, A History and Theory of Informed Consent. The first court case that mentions “informed consent” can be found in  Salgo v. Leland Stanford Jr. University Board of Trustees (Civ.No.17045. First Dist., Div. One, 1975).

For good documentation of the “HeLa Bomb,” see records at the AMCA and the TCAA as well as “The Proceedings of the Second Decennial Review Conference on Cell Tissue and Organ Culture, The Tissue Culture Association, Held on September 11-15, 1966,” National Cancer Institute Monographs 58, no.26 (November 15, 1967).

There is prolific scholarship on culture contamination since the late 1960s. The following is a good representation of that body of work: S. M. Gartler, “Apparent HeLa Cell Contamination of Human Heteroploid Cell Lines,” Nature 217 (February 4. 1968); N. Auerspberg and S. M. Gartler, “Isoenzyme Stability in Human Heteroploid Cell Lines,” Experimental Cell Research 61 (August 1970); E. E. Fraley, S. Ecker, and M. M. Vincent, “Spontaneous in Vitro Neoplastic Transformation of Adult Human Prostatic Epithelium,” Science 170, no.3957 (October 30, 1970); A. Yoshida, S. Watanabe, and S. M. Gartler, “Identification of HeLa Cell Glucose 6-phosphate Dehydrogenase,” Biochemical Genetics 5 (1971); W. D. Peterson et al,. “Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Isoenzymes in Human Cell Cultures Determined by Sucrose-Agar Gel and Cellulose Acetate Zymograms,” Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 128, no.3 (July 1968); Y. Matsuya and H. Green, “Somatic Cell Hybrid Between the Established Human Line D98 (presumptive HeLa) and 3T3,” Science 163, no.3868 (February 14, 1969); and C. S. Stulberg, L. Coriell, et al., “The Animal Cell Culture Collection,” In Vitro 5 (1970).

The best account of the contamination controversy can be found in Michael Gold, A Conspiracy of Cells.


On the history of polio vaccine, see Debbie Bookshin and Jim Shumacher, The Virus and the Vaccine; David M. Oshinski, Polio: An American Story; Jeffrey Kluger, Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio; Paul Offit, The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Crisis in Vaccines.

For the initial growth of poliovirus using HeLa cells, and the subsequent development of shipping methods for their distribution around the world, see AMCMA and the March of Dimes Archives and J. Syverton, W. Scherer, and G. O. Gey, “Studies on the Propagation in Vitro of Polio-myelitis Virus,” Journal of Experimental Medicine 87, no.5 (May 1, 1953).


On the development of the Pap smear, see G. N. Papanicolaou and H. F. Traut, “Diagnostic Value of Vaginal Smears in Carcinoma of Uterus,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 42 (1941); and George Papanicolaou and H. Traut, “Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Smear,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (1943).

On the history of radium and its use as a cancer treatment, see D.J.DiSantis and D. M. DiSantis, “Radiologic History Exhibit: Wrong Turns on Radiology’s Road of Progress,” Radiographics 11 (1991); Catherine Caufield, Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age; the website for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at; Timothy R. B. Johnson, John A. Rock, and J. Donald Woodruff, eds., The First 100 Years: Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

On the standard treatment for cervical cancer in the 1950s, see A. Brunschwig, “The Operative Treatment of Carcinoma of the Cervix: Radical Panhysterectomy with Pelvic Lymph Node Excision,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 61, no.6 (June 1951); R. W. Green, “Carcinoma of the Cervix: Surgical Treatment (A Review),” Journal of the Maine Medical Association 42, no.11 (November 1952); R.T. Schmidt, “Panhysterectomy in the Treatment of Carcinoma of he Uterine Cervix: Evaluation of Results,” Journal of the American Medical Association 146, no.14 (August 4, 1951); S.B. Gusberg and J. A. Corscaden, “The Pathology and Treatment of Adenocarcinoma of the Cervix,” Cancer 4, no.5 (September 1951).

Understanding and growth of the L-cell (the first immortal cell line, ggrown from a mouse) was documented in W.R. Earle et al., “Production of Malignancy in Vitro, IV. The Mouse Fibroblast Cultures and Changes Seen in Living Cells,” Journal of the NCI 4 (1943)

On George Gey’s pre-HeLa cell culture work, see G. O. Gey, “Studies on the Cultivation of Human Tissue Outside the Body,” Wisconsin J.J 28, no.11 (1929); G. O. Gey, and M. K. Gey, “The Maintenance of Human Normal Cells and Human Tumor Cells in Continuous Culture I: A Preliminary Report,” American Journal of Cancer 27, no.45 (May 1936). For an overview see G. Gey, F. Bang, and M. Gey, “An Evaluation of Some Comparative Studies on Cultured Strains of Normal and Malignant Cells in Animals and Man,” Texas Reports on Biology and Medicine (Winter 1954)

On George Gey’s invention of he roller drum, see “An Improved Technic for Massive Tissue Culture,” American Journal of Cancer 17 (1933); for his early work filming cells, consult G.O. Gey and W. M. Firor, “Phase Contrast Microscopy of Living Cells,” Annals of Surgery 125 (1946). On an early abstract eventually published that documented the initial growth of the HeLa cell line, see G. O. Gey, W. D. Coffman, and M. T. Kubicek, “Tissue Culture Studies of he Proliferative Capacity of Cervical Carcinoma and Normal Epithelium,” Cancer Research 12 (1952): 264-65. A thorough discussion of his work on HeLa and other cultures can be found in G. O. Gey, “Some Aspects of the Constitution and Behavior of Normal and Malignant Cells Maintained in Continuous Culture,” The Harvey Lecture Series I (1954-55).

For published papers of the first HeLa symposium, see Roland Pattillo, ed., “The HeLa Cancer Control Symposium: Presented at the First Annual Women’s Health Conference, Morehouse School of Medicine, October 11, 1996, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suppl. 176, no.6 (June 1997).

For a good overview of the Tuskegee study catered to the general audience, see James H. Jones, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment; also see Vanessa Northington Gamble, chair, “Final Report of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee (May 20, 1996)

On the history of cell culture, see Hannah Landecker, Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies; David M. Friedman, The Immortalists: Charles Lindberg, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever; And on Johns Hopkins contributions to cell culture, see “History of Tissue Culture at Johns Hopkins,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine (1977)

For the tv segment featuring George Gey, see “Cancer Will Be Conquered,” Johns Hopkins University: Special Collections Science Review Series (April 10, 1951)